EppsNet Archive: Work

Occupational Certification a Guarantee of Quality?

4 Nov 2015 /


I had fingerprints taken this morning, not the old-fashioned way with an inkpad but with a biometric device that required a certified technician to roll each of my fingers back and forth on a scanner.

I emphasize certified technician because California law requires any individual who rolls fingerprints manually or electronically for licensure, certification and/or employment purposes to be certified by the state Department of Justice. You can’t just put any person off the street in charge of advanced optical technology.

Thanks to the use of an expensive machine vs. an inkpad and the certification requirements, the cost to me of having my fingerprints taken was about $70.

California is big on occupational certification. More than 200 professions from doctor to tree trimmer require certification from one of 42 government bureaus and boards. Does this elaborate and costly web of regulation assure the highest quality of professional service?

Each fingerprint took at least three attempts . . . the machine kept rejecting them due to poor quality and the technician had to re-roll them. One finger I believe required 10 repetitions.

God only knows how many tries it would have taken a non-certified person to complete the job.

The Perfect Summer Beverage

5 Jul 2015 /


What’s better on a hot day than ice-cold lemonade? Rum and coke? Yes, but I can’t drink that at work. I need to start working from home in the summer months . . .

Is Dignity an Obstacle to Success?

27 May 2015 /

Sometimes life requires that we take jobs below our station until we learn skills, offer apologies even when we are wronged, suck-up to power when necessary, work long hours when we “deserve” some rest, risk embarrassment in front of witnesses, risk failure and humiliation, and get rejected by the people we hope to love. In that sort of game, the player unburdened with human dignity usually wins.

The Chaste Song of My Heart

24 Apr 2015 /

I work a lot and live far less than I could, but the moon is beautiful and there are blue stars . . . . I live the chaste song of my heart.

— Garcia Lorca to Emilia Llanos Medinor, November 25, 1920

Global Warming is Starting to Affect Me Personally

8 Apr 2015 /

We have two refrigerators at the office and neither one of them is dispensing any ice this afternoon. The ice dispensers make a noise but no ice is to be had.

Is this due to global warming? I’ve been skeptical about the effects of global warming until today, when it started to affect me personally . . .

With a Little Bit of Luck

16 Mar 2015 /

Venn diagram

A colleague shows me a Venn diagram like this one and asks would it be possible to succeed with only two of the three elements.

I say, “I suppose you could have fun dreaming big and get other people to do all the hard work.”

Joan of Arc

10 Mar 2015 /

A colleague tells me, apropos of nothing in particular, that she’s sure she can finish a challenging assignment because she’s a descendant of Joan of Arc.

“Yes, I thought I saw a resemblance.”

Joan of Arc

Automatic for the People

13 Feb 2015 /

Ripe red apple with green leaf

There’s a bag of apples in the kitchen at work, still in the original packaging, which reads “Automatic, Crisp, Juicy.” What is an “automatic” apple? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Hold on a sec . . . on further review, the packaging says “Aromatic” not “Automatic.” Neither one makes a lot of sense. I took one out and found that if I inhaled deeply enough, it smelled a little bit apple-y.

Sugar Substitutes

12 Dec 2014 /

Sugar, Sugar

I’m trying to find some sugar for my coffee in the break room . . . I see three kinds of sugar substitute — the pink kind, the yellow kind and the blue kind — but no actual sugar. The number of sugar substitutes concerns me. Why are there three different kinds? It’s like they’re not only substitutes for sugar, they’re substitutes for the other sugar substitutes.

Sugar is a natural substance that grows from the earth. I don’t know what any of this other shit is and therefore I’m not putting it in my coffee . . .

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Teaching Computer Science: Mindset

17 Nov 2014 /

Photo Credit: dongga BS

I’m not comfortable giving people advice that they didn’t ask for, so I usually preface it by saying “Feel free to ignore this . . .”

That being said, I want to talk about the mindset I think you should have for this class, maybe for other classes, maybe even for things outside of school.

Feel free to ignore this . . .

Education has allowed me to make a living doing things that I like and things that I’m good at. A lot of people are not able to say that. Most people, I think, are not able to say that. Most people are like “I hate Mondays” and “Thank god it’s Friday” and that sort of thing.

I have had jobs where I spent the day doing things that I don’t like and I’m not good at and it’s painful. And the amount of money you get paid to do it doesn’t seem to make it any less painful.

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins . . . some of them were serious about education and some of them weren’t. And the ones who weren’t, I don’t want to say they’re all losers, but they’re all . . . disappointments. As I expected they would be. My wife doesn’t like when I say this — she thinks it’s bad karma or something — but I like it when people screw around in school and go on to have disappointing lives because it reinforces everything that I believe to be true about life.

It’s satisfying when people make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, isn’t it? I think it is.

My own mindset, and this doesn’t apply just to school, is that no one is going to outwork me and no one is going to outlearn me. If you’re working on homework or a programming assignment, or you’re studying for a test or quiz, and you get stuck on something, and you try to get unstuck by reading the textbook, or going to the website and reviewing lecture slides or handouts or watching a video or posting a question to the Facebook group, you’re doing things the right way. You should do well in the class, you should do well on the AP exam and I’ll do everything I can to help you do well in the class and on the AP exam.

If you hear yourself saying things like, “I spent the weekend playing 47 straight hours of video games, and by the way, I have no idea what’s going on in this class,” you’re unlikely to do well.

If you’re asking questions about assignments on or after the due date, you’re unlikely to do well.

If you miss a class and don’t check the website to see what you missed, you’re unlikely to do well. Everything we cover in class is on the website, plus a lot of extra stuff as well.

“Nobody’s going to outwork me and nobody’s going to outlearn me.”

Again, if that doesn’t make sense to you, feel free to ignore it . . .

Intelligent Appliances

10 Nov 2014 /

We have two refrigerators in the office break room. On one the status display says REPLACE H2O FILTER; on the other, it says ORDER H2O FILTER. What I can’t figure out is how the refrigerator knows if we’ve ordered the filter . . .

Teaching Computer Science: No School After Halloween

4 Nov 2014 /
Indonesian scholars

Indonesian students crossing a collapsed bridge to get to school

There was no school yesterday because the Newport-Mesa Unified School District at some time in the past noticed that a lot of kids didn’t show up the day after Halloween, so they decided not to have classes on the day after Halloween. Evidently this applies even if Halloween is on a Friday, followed by two weekend days plus an extra hour on the time change. Kids still need that extra day to get ready for academics again.

Some time ago, I saw a news story about kids in Indonesia who had to cross a river via a rope suspension bridge to get to school. Then the bridge partially collapsed so it looked like the photo on the right. And of course the kids are determined to get an education so they’re all basically climbing their way across the river and back every day.

If the bridge collapsed completely, they’d probably swim across.

Meanwhile, American kids need 3 days off to bounce back after Halloween. I showed the class the photo of the kids crossing the river. “This is why everyone hates us,” I told them.

I don’t understand this policy of “kids don’t want to come to school after Halloween so we’ll just take the day off.” I don’t think kids want to come to school any other day either. It’s inconvenient. You have to get up early, sit at a desk and listen to people talk all day. Let’s just cancel school entirely!

If I were in charge of education, not only would schools be open after Halloween but I’d make sure that we covered a ton of critically important material that day so that anyone who wasn’t there would be hopelessly behind and never catch up. I want to see who the competitors are. You don’t want to show up after Halloween? OK . . . have fun at community college.

Work is the same way . . . on the plus side, it gives your life the illusion of meaning but on the other hand, it really cuts into your day. Get used to it kids . . .

By Way of Explanation

14 Aug 2014 /

I was yelling this morning and I scared the dog. I wasn’t angry at him or at anyone in the house, I was angry about a whole life insurance scam we got in the mail. (That’s redundant, isn’t it? “Whole life insurance scam”?)

Anyway, the dog got scared and crawled under the bed. His joints, especially in his back legs, are not too good anymore and once he got under the bed, he couldn’t get back out. I had to crawl under there myself, roll him on his side, which he didn’t like, and then slide him out.

That’s in case you’re wondering why I showed up late for work this morning looking like I just crawled out from under a bed . . .

The Softball Waivers

24 Jul 2014 /

Our company’s having an in-house softball game tonight, hosted at a field across the street at UC Irvine . . .

Three-Quarter Century Softball Team

Members of the Three-Quarter Century Softball Club: St. Petersburg, Florida (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

That’s not our actual team in the picture, the difference being that the players in the picture look like they may have been athletes at one time.

I’m not playing because I have a piano lesson tonight. (Actually, I wouldn’t have played anyway because I can no longer do things like run and see that used to serve me so well on the diamond all those years ago. But the piano lesson is a convenient excuse.)

Everyone who is playing had to sign a waiver provided by UCI. Good move. Company softball games are rife with injuries. I picture a scenario like this:

Dear UCI Parents,

We regret that your students are not able to graduate on time, but as you know, we’ve had to cut back drastically on our course offerings since the infamous softball lawsuit of 2014.

How to Not Cry at Work

24 Jul 2014 /
Top LinkedIn posts

The most read post on LinkedIn today is “How To Not Cry At Work” with (as I write this) 241,549 views.

The second most read post — and a very distant second with 101,906 views — is “It’s time to stop using recruiting agencies.”

That can’t be good. What does it say about the American workplace that the most pressing issue is how to avoid crying?

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Great West Retirement Services

6 Jul 2014 /

Because I changed jobs recently, I want to roll over a 401k into an IRA. I filled out the form, mailed it in to Great West Retirement Services — they manage the 401k — and got this in return:

The enclosed benefit request is being returned for additional and or missing information. We require the following item(s) be completed before processing can take place:

  • Please have this request completed on the attached current version of the distribution form. The form this request was submitted on is now discontinued.

OK, first of all, the form isn’t being returned for additional or missing information. I filled out the form I was given and you’re telling me it’s now discontinued. You can’t figure it out anyway? You really need me to fill out ANOTHER 6-PAGE FORM with EXACTLY THE SAME INFORMATION in a slightly different format?!

And I love this part: “Please have this request completed . . .” I DON’T HAVE SOMEONE WHO COMPLETES FORMS FOR ME! I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF, YOU FUCKING PRICKS!

Two Mediocrities Are Not Better Than One

23 Jun 2014 /

Effective executives rarely suffer from the delusion that two mediocrities achieve as much as one good man. They have learned that, as a rule, two mediocrities achieve even less than one mediocrity — they just get in each other’s way.

— Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

19 Jun 2014 /

I believe what I believe, and I have not yet believed a single thing only because it was believed by others, nor do I intend to. I can be grateful for this, at least: that I have kept myself. I have not once dressed up in a costume. There may be stronger consolations, but not many. Be that as it may, I cannot live differently than I do. Whatever the reasons for this, good or bad, they exist. Evidently that is enough. So, early tomorrow, I must get up again to do what I have done today. I will get up early to do this, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and there is nothing to discuss.

— Evan Connell, Mr. Bridge

Hard Deadlines

7 Jun 2014 /
Alarm Clock 3

Does saying “This task has to be done by Friday” increase the chances that the task will be done by Friday?

No, but it increases the chance that it won’t be done before Friday.

Better question: Why isn’t it done now?

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Limit Your Meeting Attendance

4 Jun 2014 /

If there’s any question as to whether your presence is required, compare your own goals to the meeting’s reason and decide whether the benefit of attending is greater than the benefit of doing something else. To make this decision, ask yourself two questions: “What’s in it for me?” and “What bad thing would happen if I pass on it?”

If the answer is close to “nothing” and “nothing,” find a reason not to attend.

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